When it comes to franchising, there are many different business models that potential owners can look to buy into. One of these include a seasonal business such as pool cleaning and maintenance franchise Pool Scouts.
While some states can enjoy swimming year-round, there are several whose weather dictates when local residents can enjoy their pools. With this in mind, it's important for owners in these territories to drive business during the warm summer months and maximize time during the “off-season” to plan for the next year. Lessons learned in the first season proved that key planning must be in place for when the busy season hits in the spring. Some tactics include route efficiencies, marketing plan, and inventory ordering.
“During the peak summer months, you should really start early,” said Kinsey McCutchen, Owner of Pool Scouts, Memphis, Tennessee. “This year, we really pushed advertising starting in March for old and new customers to get their pools open sooner than later. There are a few reasons that are beneficial to opening your pool earlier: It hasn't gotten really hot yet so the water is easier and faster to clean and cheaper for the customer because not as many chemicals are needed. By getting openings on the calendar early we are able to better plan both our recurring and one-off services.”
McCutchen and her husband Jake were the recipients of the brand’s “Rookie Class High Dive” award this year due to their incredible impact in just their first year of ownership, displaying a great balance between projects across summer and winter months.
Other tactics for staying on top of the summer season include using Google forms to streamline requests and projects. Planning routes based on geographic location is key during the busy season, as it gives technicians more time to clean pools if they are closer together.
Additionally, daily communication with your team is crucial. “Because of our setup, I am not always able to see the technicians prior to their sendoff each day,” said McCutchen. “I send them an email and text and speak with them on the phone about each stop they have that day. It is key that they know how many they have and what they need to stock in the van prior to leaving our storage facility. By planning out the day and stocking the van, we are better able to optimize our time cleaning pools.”
Part of this process can often mean staying “on” throughout each day for both your team and customers should you be needed as well.
“I am a big proponent of getting up early and staying up late during the busiest time of the season,” said Tiffiny Consoli, Owner of Pool Scouts Triangle, North Carolina. “This allows me to keep a pulse on everything. Another important aspect is overall organization. This includes note taking, follow-ups with customers and team members, keeping up with emails, returning phone calls and not missing any customer issues.”
Running a service-based business is certainly not a one-person job. In fact, for Pool Scouts owners to be successful, they need to rely on a supporting cast of technicians and assistants.
“I couldn’t do this without my office team,” said Consoli. “I have two office assistants who help to manage incoming requests, customer questions, scheduling and more. Our technicians are always available during busy season as well. Typically they will wait until the slower months in the fall and winter to take their vacation time and use the summer months to put their best foot forward.”
With most cleaning and maintenance visits taking place in the summer, owners also need to find ways to maximize time during the off-season.
“We were really worried that it would be hard to keep our technicians busy during the off-season but thankfully for us this last year we were able to do so” said McCutchen. “We have many customers that do not close their pools for the winter so we continue to service them through the off-season. For many customers that do close their pool we offer a "Winter Care Program." The winter care program is a once-a-month visit to the closed pool where we check the equipment, pool cover, water level in the pool, clean off any debris or water gathered on top of the cover, make sure the sump pump is working and, in February, start treating with algaecide to prepare for opening season.”
The Winter Care Program benefits customers by keeping their pools clean and cared for. This helps to make opening pools easier in the summer. This time period also allows franchise owners to get strategic and begin planning for the next year.
During the winter months, we take on more repair type work since our recurring customer business slows due to customers closing their pools for the winter," said Consoli. "We do keep some recurring maintenance all year long and may acquire some new business, but we like to take advantage of the slower time to invest in training for our technicians, and focus on planning and marketing for the next season.”
McCutchen and her team take a very similar approach during the slower parts of the year.
“During the peak season it is definitely more demanding. Because of our high standards for customers service and technician support, I am in the office working long hours, talking with technicians and customers, invoicing, ordering supplies, and more. The phone volume really increases during the peak season with new customer requests, current customer questions and just helping the technicians while they are out in the field. During the off-season I do the same things I do during peak season but the volume of each is less due to the amount of customers we are servicing. During the off-season we do more planning for the peak months in regards to marketing and technician training.”
Other activities that can prove beneficial to seasonal business owners include attending seminars or trade shows to network with other folks in the industry and further build relationships with vendors. No matter how you look at it, there are many tasks an owner must handle year-round and it is important to find that proper balance, especially with a seasonal business.
Typical startup costs for purchasing a Pool Scouts franchise range from $57,600-$108,375, with an average initial investment of $95,000. For more information on franchising opportunities with Pool Scouts, please visit https://poolscoutsfranchise.com/.